If you want to become a better leader, it’s important to stay on top of the latest leadership trends, theories, and strategies. Doing so keeps you informed, lets you try out new ideas, and empowers you to synthesize it all into your own unique leadership style.
One way to achieve this is by reading some of the best leadership books in the industry. They come out regularly, so you’ll need to refresh your reading list every few years to stay on top of the latest leadership best practices.
What are the best leadership books?
The best leadership books provide readers with the tools and insights they need to become better leaders.
With this in mind, here are some criteria you can use to determine what makes a great leadership book:
- A clear and concise writing style that is accessible to all levels of readers
- Detailed examples from real-life situations to illustrate key points
- Strategies and tactics for leading people in various contexts, such as team management, individual coaching, or boardroom negotiations
- Insights into organizational structures and cultures that help guide effective decision-making
- Easy-to-understand explanations of complex theories
- Practical advice that can be applied to a variety of leadership positions
- Compelling and engaging style that will keep readers motivated to read on
15 best leadership books of all time
1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Good to Great focuses on the principles and practices that differentiate great companies from good ones. It dives deep into the business strategies, culture, decision-making processes, and the role of leadership in driving organizations from good to great.
This book helps new and experienced leaders, empowering them with insightful concepts that can transform their leadership style and drive performance. It emphasizes the importance of humility, determination, a disciplined mindset, and surrounding oneself with the right people as crucial factors for successful leadership.
“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.” - Jim Collins
2. Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Start With Why delves into the quest for purpose and fulfillment in our personal and professional lives. Its central idea is the Golden Circle — a strategic framework that empowers organizations to thrive. The Golden Circle enables movements to succeed, and inspires individuals to pursue their dreams by starting with the “why.” The book emphasizes that exceptional leaders motivate people to take action by communicating their “why” — the driving force behind their beliefs, values, and goals.
This book can benefit leaders of all kinds, including entrepreneurs, executives, teachers, and parents. It helps leaders understand the importance of having a clear sense of purpose and how that purpose can influence their decision-making, communication, and leadership style.
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” - Simon Sinek
3. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Extreme Ownership shares hard-hitting Navy SEAL combat stories that translate into lessons for business and life. The authors served together in SEAL Task Unit Bruiser and now teach leadership principles to companies that want to build high-performance, winning teams.
Extreme Ownership teaches proven leadership principles used by thousands of people in leadership positions, resulting in improved productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness in their teams and organizations. These valuable lessons can help any leader improve their team's performance.
“Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.” - Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
4. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
The Gifts of Imperfection is a guide to embracing your imperfections and living a wholehearted life. Brown encourages readers to let go of societal pressures and expectations and to instead cultivate self-love, self-compassion, and authentic connections with others. She provides actionable steps and insights on how to cultivate these qualities and embrace vulnerability.
This book is helpful for any leader who wants to cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness and authenticity in their leadership style. Brown’s emphasis on vulnerability and wholehearted living can help leaders connect more deeply with their teams and foster a culture of trust and openness.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” - Brené Brown
5. The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
The Art of Possibility provides a unique perspective on how to live a more fulfilling life. The authors use inspiring stories and examples to encourage readers to embrace the power of possibility and cultivate a mindset focused on opportunities rather than limitations.
This book is ideal for leaders who want to inspire their teams and create a positive work culture. It helps leaders to shift their perspective from one of scarcity to one of abundance. And to approach challenges with a growth mindset, unlocking their true potential and that of their team.
“In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.” - Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander
6. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People teaches readers how to develop personal and interpersonal effectiveness through seven habits. Covey argues that success results from fundamental character traits rather than skills and practices that bolster the public image.
The book helps readers shift their paradigm to focus on what they can control, establish guiding principles, prioritize essential tasks, and work collaboratively with others to achieve common goals.
This book helps leaders who want to improve their personal and interpersonal effectiveness by developing new habits.
“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” - Stephen R. Covey
7. The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer
The Untethered Soul explores the relationship between our thoughts and emotions, and how they affect our consciousness. It offers practical techniques to help readers let go of negative energy patterns and live in the present moment.
The book can be helpful to leaders looking to develop their emotional intelligence and become more self-aware. It teaches readers how to recognize their thoughts and emotions and how they impact their leadership style.
“Unconditional happiness is the highest technique there is. You don’t have to learn Sanskrit or read any scriptures. You don’t have to renounce the world. You just have to really mean it when you say that you choose to be happy.” - Michael Singer
8. Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey
Immunity to Change is about identifying and overcoming personal barriers preventing individuals from achieving their goals. It delves into the concept of “immunity to change,” which refers to people’s hidden assumptions and beliefs that can hinder their growth and progress. The book offers a unique approach to tackling internal resistance to change, revealing unconscious roadblocks that hinder personal and organizational growth.
This book is ideal for leaders looking to improve their personal and professional growth. It helps leaders identify the hidden assumptions and beliefs that may be hindering their progress.
“When we have the privilege to make a change, we also get a chance to make a change for our organization.” - Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey
9. Opening Your Presence: Presenting the YOU You Want Others To See by Greta Muller
Opening Your Presence: Presenting the YOU You Want Others To See is a guidebook written by a coach and trusted adviser to Fortune 500 companies. However, it’s for anyone who wants to present themselves authentically and confidently. The book is written in a candid, humorous, and graceful manner that’s easy to understand and follow.
This book is ideal for the nonprofessional speaker who must present at company meetings and events. It helps them clear their fears and misconceptions, prepare for their encounters, craft their message, and present with confidence.
“Say it with me: People buy you (or don’t) before they buy (or not) whatever it is you’re selling.” - Greta Muller
10. Leading Inclusion: Drive Change Your Employees Can See and Feel by Gene Cox
Leading Inclusion provides a practical guide for leaders to build inclusive organizations. It challenges preexisting beliefs about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and offers a strategic way for leaders to incorporate DEI efforts into their organizations from the top down.
The book is perfect for CEOs, C-suite leaders, board directors, human resources professionals, and other leaders who want to understand inclusion from a strategic perspective.
“In this new day, you can do things that will help with healing and forward movement.” - Gene Cox
11. Dare To Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown
Dare To Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. teaches readers how to be daring leaders in a culture of fear and uncertainty. The book explores the four skill sets that make up daring leadership — rumbling with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust, and learning to rise.
This book is for anyone who wants to step up and lead with courage and empathy, whether in a small entrepreneurial startup or a Fortune 500 company. It helps leaders cultivate the skills needed to be brave, have tough conversations, and show up with their whole hearts.
“If we shield ourselves from all feedback, we stop growing.” - Brené Brown
12. Good Power: Leading Positive Change in Our Lives, Work, and World by Ginni Rometty
Good Power: Leading Positive Change in Our Lives, Work, and World is a mix of a memoir, leadership lessons, and big ideas by former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. The book explores the concept of “good power,” which aims to drive meaningful change for ourselves, our organizations, and the world.
This book caters to leaders seeking to cultivate authentic leadership, inspire teams, improve their companies, and create healthier societies. It shares practical guidance on using good power through five key principles: be in service of others, build belief, know what must change and what must endure, steward good tech, and be resilient.
“Power can be good when it seeks to maximize beneficial impacts and avert rather than ignore harmful consequences. Power can be good when it’s inclusive, shared, and distributed.” - Ginni Rometty
13. Leading Lightly: Lower Your Stress, Think With Clarity and Lead With Ease by Jody Michael
Leading Lightly offers a new perspective on leadership, emphasizing mental fitness, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness. Michael provides a road map for transforming performance, achieving greater self-awareness, and managing work and life with clarity and ease.
This book suits leaders struggling with stress, anxiety, and fatigue at work. It helps them shift their mindset, think differently, and respond to situations with more agility.
“Leading lightly means that no matter what happens during your day, you have the capacity to approach everything with enduring ease and clarity.” - Jody Michael
14. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
Leaders Eat Last explores the key elements of successful leadership and why some organizations thrive while others struggle. It delves into the concept of trust in leadership and how it impacts the success of organizations. Sinek explores trust’s biological and anthropological roots, the importance of creating a healthy environment within organizations, and the role of empathetic servant leadership.
It’s valuable for leaders at all levels, from CEOs to team leaders, helping them to understand the importance of putting their employees’ needs first and inspiring trust through their actions.
“Leaders are the ones who are willing to give up something of their own for us. Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate. When it matters, leaders choose to eat last.” - Simon Sinek
15. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is about the fundamental principles of leadership. It explains 21 laws that every leader should follow to become an effective and successful leader. The book provides practical examples and insights to help readers understand each law and how to apply it in their personal and professional lives.
The book is suitable for business leaders, executives, entrepreneurs, and even aspiring leaders. It helps them understand a good leader’s essential qualities, such as vision, integrity, influence, and communication. It also teaches how to build a strong team, make effective decisions, and motivate and inspire others.
“There are different types of leaders, one who attracts followers and the other is one who develops the other leaders.” - John C. Maxwell
Now that you have a solid list of leadership books to read, it’s time to get started. Select several that resonate with your needs as a current or aspiring leader, buy them as ebooks or hardcovers, and set aside time to read them every day.